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“There’s no stress, no bustling, no people busting down doors,” said Richard Stargill, a 43-year-old construction worker from New York, referring to incidents such as the 2008 death of a Walmart worker, trampled by a mob of shoppers.
For Edward Segura, 50, at a Target in Tucson, Arizona, with his wife Belinda, 44, and their daughter, the earlier hours were a blessing.
“We’ll shop tonight and tomorrow is freed up for enjoyment. I get to play golf and we’re going to a football game later,” said Segura. “My wife thinks of this as the Super Bowl of shopping, but I’d rather do something else.”
Like many Black Friday shoppers, Segura was looking at televisions. But electronics were not the only hot sellers.
At Macy’s in Herald Square in Manhattan, the line at the Estee Lauder counter was four deep shortly after its midnight opening. The cosmetics department’s “morning specials” included free high-definition headphones with any fragrance purchase of $75 or more, and a set of six eye shadows for $10.
At the Target on Elston Avenue on Chicago’s Northwest side - known as one of the highest-volume stores in the chain - the $25 Dirt Devil vacuum that normally goes for $39.99 was sold out, though there were still several large televisions available. Items such as towels for $2, blankets, kids’ slippers and pajamas were hot sellers.
At 2 a.m. CST (0800 GMT), Mall of America was poised to beat the record number of shoppers - 217,000 - that came on the same day last year, according to mall spokesman Dan Jasper.
The day is also a test for retailers shifting strategies, like J. C. Penney Co Inc, which has been suffering from plunging sales as it moves away from coupons toward lower pricing and specialized boutiques within stores.
Amina Kebbeh, 18, of the Bronx, New York, was on line for the 6 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) opening of Penney’s Manhattan store. Others stood with her, though the line was relatively tame, compared to larger stores and those that opened earlier.
“If they remove the coupons, no one is eager to come,” she said.